How to Play the Pokémon Trading Card Game

By Shea Laverty

In the Pokemon Trading Card Game, the object is simple: battle your opponent and their team of Pokemon in a strategic showdown. Victory comes when you defeat all of your opponent's active Pokemon, force their deck to run out or claim all of your prize cards. These are the basic rules and concepts of the game; the official rulebook has more details on the specific mechanics and nuances of gameplay.

Types of Cards

The game uses three types of cards: Pokemon, Energy and Trainer cards. Pokemon cards represent the Pokemon you send out in the battle. Energy cards are used by your Pokemon to power attacks. Trainer cards represent Items, Supporters and Stadiums, and have varied effects that affect gameplay. Each of these cards has its effect and any special rules printed in its text box.

Pokemon and Energy Types

Pokemon types work like "rock-paper-scissors," with one being strong against another, but possibly weak against others. For example, fire-type Pokemon are strong against grass types, but weak against water types. Having a diverse team of Pokemon types means you can counter many Pokemon types and keep yourself from being dominated by a single type. However, it may require you to stack so many energy types that you can't play a Pokemon as effectively as you'd like.

Deck Construction

Your deck's limit is 60 cards, and should contain a mix of Pokemon, Energy and Trainer cards. You'll want a core team of Pokemon as well as their evolved forms in your deck, and plenty of Energy cards; make sure your Energy cards match your Pokemon's abilities. Trainer cards can greatly affect a battle, so keep some useful ones in your deck. The exact balance of Pokemon, Energy and Trainer cards varies depending on your play style, so try different ratios to find what works best for you.

Start the Game

Shake hands with your opponent and flip a coin; whoever wins determines who goes first. Shuffle your decks and draw the top seven cards, checking your hand for Basic (unevolved) Pokemon. If you don't have any, show your opponent your hand, then shuffle it into the deck and draw seven more cards. Repeat this as many times as necessary to get a Basic Pokemon into your hand; each time you do this, your opponent gets to draw a card. Once you both have Basic Pokemon in your hands, pull the top six cards from your deck and set them aside face-down; these are the prize cards. Both players set down a Basic Pokemon and flip it face up to start play.

How Turns Work

Draw a card and add it to your hand. Then, do any of the following in any order: move Basic Pokemon cards from your hand to your Bench; evolve your Pokemon; attach an Energy card from your hand to one Pokemon; play Trainer cards; pull back or retreat an active Pokemon to your Bench; or use your Pokemon's abilities. You can only add one Energy card to one Pokemon per turn, retreat only one Pokemon per turn and play one Supporter and one Stadium card per turn. All other moves can be done as many times as you want. Finally, you must have your Pokemon attack your opponent's Pokemon, ending your turn. Between turns, you can cure your Pokemon of negative status effects like poison or paralysis using Trainer cards or abilities.